With this hefty programme of sumptuous American music, the Hallé were really spoiling us. The Overture to Bernstein's Wonderful Town set the scene glamorously, but was ultimately overshadowed by the rest of the concert. The bolted-on sax quintet was perhaps a little underpowered; thereafter, the playing was exemplary and completely engaging.
Copland’s Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo were all at relatively safe tempi, but the scenarios were all utterly vivid. Neither the Bernstein nor the Copland had the most swagger or hustle, or the most 'epic' Hollywood string sound; instead they were performances in which not a note was wasted, with Elder revealing the sentiment implicit in the score. Moments like the 'Maria' section from the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story brought a lump to the throat with the sheer beauty and clarity of the orchestral colour.
Ginastera's impressionistic Harp Concerto was something of a revelation and a very clever down-tempo contrast just before the interval. A most misty piece full of quietly dazzling orchestration effects, it often seemed to drift in to a trance-like state. It featured some fine playing from the Hallé's own principal harpist, Marie Leenhardt.
It also transpired that the Hallé were holding a big card up their sleeve for the finale, as the final passages of Gershwin’s An American in Paris were obscenely lush, with Elder apparently stopping time momentarily to allow an outrageous trumpet note-bend just before the climax. It was a glorious few minutes of really 'milking it' that had been earned completely by the profundities elsewhere in the concert.